Gluten and Your Brain
Did you know that gluten can affect your brain? Certain neurological disorders—idiopathic epilepsy (epilepsy without a known cause), ataxia (unstable gait, clumsiness), peripheral neuropathy (tingling or numbness in the hands or feet), schizophrenia and even recurrent headaches—can be associated with celiac disease. Some syndromes, like epilepsy with calcification in the brain, are definitely linked to celiac disease. In addition, certain psychiatric disturbances--hallucinations, depression, anxiety, suicide ideation—occur more frequently in people with celiac disease than the general population.
Celiac disease can also present as autistic-like behaviors. Although autism and celiac disease are distinct, unrelated entities, some autistic-like behaviors are common in celiac disease, especially in young children. A child with undiagnosed celiac disease may, in fact, appear sad, introverted, unwilling to socialize or communicate even with his or her parents, or the child may be cranky and excessively irritable.
Neurologic, psychiatric, emotional and autistic-like manifestations have been described in celiac patients who show minimal or no GI symptoms and no damage in the small intestine.
Fortunately, all these symptoms, including depression, anxiety and hallucinations, are likely to regress on a gluten-free diet.
For more about the implications of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity on brain health, check out Living Without’s special health report, Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity.